Wednesday, December 31, 2008


2009 is already upon us. Soon we will be entering the eighth year of our nightmare. This year I resolve to move in to this place. May you all finish your projects before we get to move in if you haven't done so already!!!!!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Where's Santa?

We went out to do bargain shopping. I saw this scary ornament in a craft store.

I didn't catch the news. Did the "Big Guy" get shot down in Borneo?


See how little I know. Shrunken heads come from the Amazon! (Though I suspect that this one says "Made in China.") Maybe Santa crashed near there!

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Big Announcement

If you wonder why I am not posting every other day like I used to it is because I am very busy doing other things besides home improvement. I'm sure that I have mentioned before on this site that I am the president of my neighborhood association and I also chair our local Priority Board which is supposedly recognized as the "official voice" of the residents of our fair city. In between the numerous meetings that I am expected to attend without compensation I am home educating my daughter who is in kindergarten and already 70% through her curriculum for the year and ready to start on first grade material in three subjects. She is reading 2nd grade books and already solving second and third grade math problems. We started early with her learning because it makes our lives easier as she gets older. I guess we plan well ahead and give ourselves ample time to react as needed.

That being said, I am making an early announcement that will explain why things are slower at the "Crack House". I am going to run for Mayor next year and have just slapped together a web site and blog to use in my campaign. I shouldn't have to post to the site very often. It is a tool to allow me to connect with residents of the city. I have added a banner in the right sidebar that links to "Dayton Mayor". There is a petition process that is quite time consuming. I hope to be through with it soon so that I am ready to do more work on the house. Don't worry, this won't become a political blog. I'm really not a politician. Just a mover and a shaker who gets things done.
Now I can say that the worse thing that could happen to me personally is that I get elected, because I would have to do the job and we certainly are facing some challenges here in Dayton. I am willing to face those challenges but I won't be too disappointed if the voters don't think that I am the best person for the job. On the other hand, we are certainly going to have the right house if I can just get things finished!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fondelling My Volute

Last March at our local Chili Cook-Off event I met someone who was a self described fan of this blog. Sometime in May or June he and his wife got a tour of the "Old Crack House" and he was telling me about his woodworking ability. So I whipped out my volute and handed it to his wife. "Can he match this?" I wondered as she held the thing with both of her hands.

Now before you all start commenting about being a pervert you need to know what a "Volute" is. Raise your hand if you know.....

A volute in our case is the spiral end of the stair rail that sits on top of the newel post. The very tip of which is missing!

The gentleman volunteered to try his best at replicating a volute for us and I must add that he has surpassed all expectations. As a result he needs to be showered in praises. Especially because he offered to do this for us for the sheer pleasure of helping us out and the challenge to try his hand at some carving.

Here is the end result resting in place;

I wasn't worried about the wood matching because there is so much filling of divots and cracks with putty to be done on the original wood that I am going to have to tint the shellac that I apply to this rail so the original cherry is going to be masked anyway.
So, if you are impressed, let his wife know. She has her own blog you can leave comments on.
I don't know for sure but seeing this thing lying on her kitchen counter every day for several months may have something to do with one of her latest announcements ....

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Being Labelled

I made a bunch of labels like the one above this afternoon. If you put clear shellac on them they have that "Old-Timey" look. Let me tell you why I did this.

I think the time has come for many beaten communities to get back to their roots. Dayton has been beaten and stomped on for many years. This city was founded on invention and progressive thinking. I collect old Dayton items. Most say "Made in Dayton, O." on them or have Dayton patents issued on them or were sold as souvenirs of Dayton. We can't find many items any more that say "Made in USA" let alone a city or a state.
My wife attends a stampers club meeting every month where she makes cards. I often tell her that her cards should be stamped "Made in Dayton". The stuff that I toy around with and make for our house like my concrete sink and counter tops, or the funky steam punk air filter that I made, should say "Made in Dayton". People who make crafts locally or grow food locally should label their stuff where it is made or grown. I would buy something made in Dayton over something similar made in another part of Ohio. Then I would buy something made in Ohio over anything similar made anywhere else in the USA. Why are we importing green peppers and salad items from Mexico when we can grow them here?
So I'm labeling stuff I make or do with the above labels because I'm proud of where I live and what I have been able to achieve. In most instances, with no previous knowledge. I think this could be a start to turning local economies around.

Tomorrow, if I can catch her. I'm going to stick one of these on Elizabeth's bottom!

Friday, December 12, 2008

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Not Much to Report

I am officially slacking! At least it seems that way to me. In reality I have been doing many small jobs. I made a wood "damper" for the "WEE Rumford". I figured that paying $150 or more for a damper on a fireplace we may use three times a year is foolish at this stage so I made a block that seals the throat of the fireplace and stops the passage of warm air up the chimney. I just have to attach a tag that says "Remove before lighting fire" or we'll have a problem or two. I put proper stove pipe on the wood stove and lit a fire to test it. The fumes that come off the stove pipe from the factory paint are quite nauseating. (cough, cough) I've been patching some areas of wall that took some water damage this year from our leaky slate roof. Drawer slides are installed in the kitchen counter cabinets. I just have to make the shelves to attach them to. The hardest thing I did last week was stack two tons of wood pellets in the basement. 100 trips up and down the stairs with 40# bags is quite a workout. Especially for someone only used to weight lifting 12 oz bottles!

Monday, December 01, 2008

Time Is on My Side, Yes It Is.

We now have a back up to the emergency heating system. This wasn't that hard to do once you figure out where to place the bricks. This is a small fireplace. The opening width is just 18 inches. I'm sure the mantle was made for a gas fireplace or a shallow coal burning fireplace with a built in basket grate. This job was a little hard on the knees though and I almost had a faux pas by forgetting to remove the large piece of cushion foam that I had stuffed up the chimney to keep the warm air in the room. I remembered when I was two thirds of the way done. Otherwise it would have been bricked in would have been a bugger to get out. I already tested whether smoke will draw properly up the chimney by burning some damp paper in a coffee can and it seems to be working fine. I did manage to rid myself of my rubble collection. For several years I have been saving broken bricks, stones, plaster and bits of concrete to fill the space behind the fire bricks so as to build up a smoke shelf. I had buckets of rubble on every floor of the house. I used five and a half joint compound buckets full of rubble in this project leaving me with just half a bucket of cellar dirt which I can dump in the back yard where there is a large pile of rubble waiting to be placed in buckets and brought into the house when I rebuild the main living room firebox sometime in the future. Guess that will make me a "Rubble Rouser" ..... nyuk, nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Preparing for the Next Project

The next project involves getting this firebox rebuilt to accomodate the smaller opening. I bought 45 firebricks and two buckets of refractory mortar this week for the job. All I need now is some angle iron, an ash dump door and the most important thing, some TIME!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Walk in the Woods on Thanksgiving Day

We went to Sugercreek Metropark this afternoon for a walk in the woods. There are a couple of 500 year old oak trees in the woods there. There used to be three but one died several years back and some moron set fire to it and now it is laying on it's side. They are still called the "Three Sisters." We were surprised at how many people visited the park today. Besides hiking around the woods we took a stroll on the prairie walk when Elizabeth began to get fussy. It took us a while to figure out why she was so bored on this walk because this was our view from the path.

Then we got it. This was her view!

Reminds me of the one about the Fukarwee tribe of pygmies in darkest Africa. They got their name because they jump up and down in the tall grass shouting "Where the fukarwee! Where the fukarwee!"

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Current Tax Evaluation Update (Hint: It Still Sucks!)

Remember a few weeks back how our real estate tax evaluation increased our property value 96% over last year? The price of everything around us has dropped. Metal and oil prices are down considerably? Well, I made an appointment to plead my case and explained that we don't have three and a half bathrooms, we only have one full bath that doesn't work. a half bath on the first floor that does work and a quarter bathroom on the second floor because I haven't installed the toilet and that room isn't functioning either because we don't have heat on the second floor and the pipes keep freezing. I also explained that the total square footage of the two floors that they count for tax purposes isn't 3970 but in fact 3631. I gave them pictures showing how the front porch is collapsing and we have an extension of the Amazon Rain Forest in our very own back yard yet alone in our bathroom when it rains and the walls blossom with mushrooms!

The guy told me that the value would be adjusted down and should come in about where I would expect it to. He said I would get notice of an adjustment within three weeks. That was six weeks ago! So I check the treasurer's website and noticed a few weeks ago that the value dropped $3000 when the correct number of bathrooms was listed. Last week the value dropped another $44,000 because they corrected the square footage and probably reclassified the condition of the property. Currently we are at a 43% increase over last year and $40,000 - $60,000 above everyone else on our side of the street who have finished, livable houses. I think we are about $60,000 higher than the other side of the street. This equates to a $600 increase in taxes for us every year. The house is worth little more than we paid for it in its current condition, even with all the work because it isn't any where near finished. I told the man if he wanted to appraise it $5000 dollars above what we paid I wouldn't argue but any higher and I would fight it. Especially when 5 properties adjoining ours are vacant and have been for several years. Currently we are $33,000 above last years tax value. They must have justified the increase because I finally rebuilt that chimney and put in the bulk head doors, which are the only improvements I have made in the last 12 months! So you know that economic stimulus check that we got back in June because we pay too many taxes to the Federal Government? Well, it looks like our local county auditor wants to claim ours. In January I can appeal my evaluation to the State. Looks like I might be doing that. I better go find where I packed up the boxing gloves!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

This is a Test of the Emergency Heating System

This is only a test. If this were a real emergency you would see cups of coffee and hot cocoa in the vicinity.

I need to replace the duct pipe with black stove pipe and I need to line the chimney ultimately but since it is clean and I don't plan on having to use this thing this winter I figured I should fire it up to see if there are holes anywhere in the stove or in the chimney! This old thing raised the temperature in the adjoining dining room from 50 degrees to 52 degrees in three hours. At this rate we might get up to 70 degrees by Christmas! The pellet stove is programmed to come on at 45 degrees. We don't know if it will work this winter because we haven't tested it yet. Hence the need for an emergency heat system .......
The thing seems to be working just fine. I didn't manage to burn down the house today and the upstairs rooms didn't fill up with smoke, which is a good thing, I think.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Bulk Head Doors are Done!

These babies lock on the inside. Later in the week when it rains I will find out if water still floods into my basement or if these do the trick!

Friday, October 24, 2008

If You Love This Blog You Need To Do This .....

You need to go over to Dogs and Jen and post a big thank you in her comments because she IS the savior of these sites! I don't know what kind of other magic she is into but she sure knows how to handle a guys files! I understand the whole process took minutes to complete whereas I would have spent countless hours trying to achieve the same result.

For those who don't know, America Online is dumping "Hometown" which is its FTP space provider. I had to move 7 years worth of web page entries and photgraphs. All the pages that make up "The entire Crack House Story" and my website were scheduled to be terminated on October 31st even though I have paid AOL thousands of $$$ over the last 13 years. So you may find a few dead links or a couple of pictures missing from this blog in November. I have to go through all my entries, and there are over 470, to find and edit the links to the old host. The new hosting service is managed by a gentleman who lives two blocks away who is doing it for all the free publicity that I can give him! Just as soon as I get a banner ad or a button from him, I will add it to this blog but here is the link anyway.

So, what good will come of this? Well, I can dump my dial up service now since I"m losing the web hosting capability with AOL and get high speed internet! Whoo hoo!!! Travelling at the speed of light, Baby!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

More Polished Concrete

A little over two weeks ago when I had to fight with the tax appraisel folks I took this picture of our unfinished hearth in the main bathroom. Complete with water puddle on the floor from our leaky roof.

As of last night it looks like this.

Here is a close up for all you polished concrete sceptics.

This was poured in place and glass was pressed into the surface. The fact that it was poured in place and trowelled means the surface is slightly uneven. It is level but uneven. Most of the surface area is going to be covered with a mantle and a pellet stove insert. I curved the front to make it more interesting otherwise it would have been too square for the room.

I noticed our tax evaluation hasn't been adjusted yet to reflect the market as I was assured it would be. Gasoline is way down, copper is way down, natural gas is down and our house value is still double what it was a year ago.

Friday, October 17, 2008

My Big Boy is Finished!

It only took about 6 real days of work, something like 320 bricks. 8 sacks of mortar, 12 gallons of water, two chimney liner tiles and 14 bags of vermiculite for a total weight 2400 lbs. of stuff that I had to haul up three flights of stairs and 13 feet up a ladder through a small opening onto the roof!

Now after some five years or so it is time to get all those old crumbling bricks from the original chimney down to ground level. I can think of one easy way to make that happen!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Politically Incorrect for Columbus Day

We just participated in another 17Th century re-enactment event. This one is local. We have the Sunwatch Indian Village here in Dayton. It is a 11Th century archaeological site that has several reconstructed huts. It is a cool site and a great place to host this type of event. We put on a trade scenario and a couple of ambushes circa 1680. At this time the natives won many of the encounters because matchlocks were the affordable weapon of the day and plug bayonets were not a common thing. None of our scenarios were scripted so we went with the mood of the day. Both trade scenarios went bad for the English trading party. I got jumped twice. I did manage to survive one of the ambushes though. The worst thing is my daughter has been influenced by the natives into thinking that I am one of the bad guys!

She was an active particpant in the trade scenario on Sunday. She even learned to shoot arrows and fire off my musket. The cool thing is not many 5 year olds get to experience history this way. The things she will do to run around barefoot in a leather skirt!

Land Contract vs. Rent to Own

You may have heard of these two terms in the past but not understood them fully. They are both forms of owner financing a real estate sale. You can Google both terms to find out more information than I will provide here because I'm not a real estate agent or a whiz at financing. Just someone who is aware of numerous ways to creatively finance a home sale.
Rent to own means just that. You set a price value on a house with a prospective tenant interested in ownership but lacking the credit or large down payment needed to buy a house at the present time. You get a down payment which is basically a right to exercise an option to buy a house at a pre-determined price for a period of 1 to 2 years. The option amount and a portion of the rent paid is applied to the purchase price if the option is exercised and becomes equity for the buyer. Real estate taxes are not required to be brought current until the house is sold under the option. This type of arrangement makes code enforcement, tax liability and maintenance the responsibility of the seller for the rental period. The seller also has the right to sell the property to another who will uphold the rent-to-own contract or increase the sale price of the house at the end of the option period.
A Land Contract is a sale of the property but a withholding of the deed by the seller until final settlement. A price is agreed to and the buyer pays principle and interest to the seller. Since a land contract can be filed at the county records office, the taxes must be paid current to the day of the contract by the seller and a recording fee is involved. The buyer should expect to incur some closing costs as a result but these are often applied to reducing the principle. The buyer is responsible for taxes, insurance and maintenance of the property. After a set number of years, generally three to five, the balance owed to the seller is paid in full by a conventional refinance through a mortgage company or a bank. At this time the deed is transferred.
In both cases, if the contracts are not complied to by the buyer, the property becomes the responsibility of the deed holder except with a land contract, the equity acquired by the buyer is generally refundable to the buyer as a result of liquidation of the property at auction if necessary.
So, if you want to buy a house and your credit is currently shaky, find a seller who doesn't need the money right away and work out a deal that benefits both parties. You don't need to look for "For Sale" signs either. You can always walk up to someones front door and make an offer though it is less likely to be accepted. Now if anyone wants to offer me a cool million $$$ for the "Crack House" I am all ears!

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Enquiring Minds Want to Know .......

Did we sell the house? Well, we have a strong potential buyer and I will know more in a day or two how the transaction will turn out. We will end up with either a rent to own or a land contract scenario. The process has been interesting because it didn't produce the results we were expecting but it did produce a result that we wanted. So in that effect, the concept worked. Here is what happened. I placed adds on numerous free classified ad sites for greater exposure and I designed a pull off phone number type flyer and put a few of these up wherever I could but realized that there were so many potential places to place them that I could never get to like the employee cafeteria at Wright-Patt Air Force Base or Wright State University etc. Soooo, I attached a copy of the flyer to an email and sent it to everyone on my email list who receives the neighborhood newsletter every month electronically and asked them to put the flyer up if they could. Now the fact that it read "$100 or highest best offer" got some immediate response. I got a call from an old neighbor asking about what we were doing. We sat on the roof of the "Crack House" for an hour or so while I was working on my chimney discussing financial options available and covered a few owner finance scenarios that might work for him. He reported back to me just days later that he may be able to sign a land contract with a friend of his on a duplex that he could live in while renting the other half and fixing the place up. Then, one person we know fairly well called and told me that they had placed our flyer up at work and offered to rent the place for $600 a month if we couldn't find a buyer. So effectively we had a bailout plan before we even placed the ad in the newspaper or held the open house days. We got over 40 phone calls. Most were investors looking for cheap property to fix up and rent. I suspect many of them drove by the house after I revealed the address and realized that it was truly worth more than they were willing to pay for it. What is the place worth? We bet it could appraise in the $85,000 range however, we elected to have a sale at the same moment the U.S. credit and financial markets were crumbling around us. We factored in many things. Our dream price would have been $90,000 but to get this I would have to replace the roof, replace the water heater and put in a new furnace to replace the perfectly good 1950s era gravity furnace that has worked for half a century! So I would have to spend $8,000 or so reducing our realized price to $82,000. Then, to get the best possible exposure we would have to list with a realtor in order to be on the multi-list. Upon a sale we would be expected to hand over $5000 in commission, taking us to $77,000 realized gain but this could take a year or even 18 months costing us between $5,000 and $7,500 in mortgage payments, taxes and insurance as well as the cost to heat the "Crack House" just to keep the pipes from freezing and the walls from cracking. Net gain ends up being $70,000. So we decided that if we got any offer in or around that amount it would be acceptable.
We held an open house over two days. From 10 AM to 5 PM each day. This was a huge waste of time. We should have run it from 1 PM to 5 PM because we had only 9 or 10 lookers and 5 bids. I think about all the work I have to do on the "Crack House" and I am stuck indoors on a beautiful weekend waiting for people to arrive at our door. Most of the people who showed up for the open house were walking or driving around the neighborhood, saw my signs and stopped in out of curiosity. Two left bids for the opportunity to get a house very cheaply. All bids were very low and unrealistic. On Sunday night, before calling the bidders, I called our rental offer person and asked if they would like to own the property if we could work out a land contract or rent-to-own deal. They said "Yes" and lo and behold, a $600 rent equates to a $70,000 mortgage plus taxes and insurance. There is a variable depending on what interest rate you use. We picked 5.75% as being very reasonable. Effectively this established a best offer scenario for us but since they were not a bidder on the bidding sheet, I had to follow the process that we had established. The purpose of the whole process is to establish a sales price that is agreeable to both parties. Nothing was binding until we agreed on a price, then a finance arrangement and we made it very clear to everyone that we would accept the best deal for us. The highest bid did not get above $35,000. We don't know if that was because the bidders did not understand the concept of an auction or they had no real idea what houses are worth that are ready-to-move-into quality. I called the "serious" bidders back after the bidding came to a halt and told them our best offer is a land contract for $70,000 and they have the opportunity to offer us something reasonably better. That didn't happen. So. I meet with our "buyer" later today to make sure they are happy with the place and to discuss the financial arrangements that we can fine tune and at the end of the month we can sign papers and depending on the arrangement, get them filed with the county. No muss, no fuss and we probably won't need a lawyer or have horrendous closing costs.
So we have to ask ourselves, "Did this system work." The answer is yes and no. Yes because the effective marketing brought forth a candidate who would have never considered they would be in a position to own their own house had they not called us. We were also able to explain that we could, if need be, owner finance for several years. Had we just posted a sign in the yard, this person would never had considered talking with us. Yes also in the fact that we found a serious real buyer very quickly. No in the sense that the bidding process did not establish a fair market value for the home. Of course the financial crisis did not help our situation as far as strangers were concerned and advertising at $100 attracted a whole bunch of "bottom feeders" who realized quickly that our home would be worth more than they were willing to pay. The financing thing isn't so bad because we act as the mortgage company and earn interest so after say 5 years we will have realized a real $ amount close to our dream price!
How did we get so smart? We purchased the "Crack House" in a similar manner and I would advise anyone to seek alternative financing arrangements over a traditional one any day because closing costs will eat you up! Plus, real people are easier to deal with than banks.
My next post will explain the difference between a "Rent-to-Own" and a land contract so you have a better understanding of the concepts in case you want to try what we did.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

More Bugger-it Cursings!

Not only do I have to go and fight with the real estate tax appraisal people next week, try to sell a house this weekend AND wrestle with the three cats to get them transferred to the "Crack House" so they don't get out during our open house. I have just been notified by AOL that they are no longer supporting their FTP space. The layout of this site will be much affected if I don't do something. I have 7 years worth of web pages stored there! I now have to move them and worse than that, I have to go through every single one and change all the links! So, if you have never read the link on the right that says "The Entire Crack House Story" you might want to go ahead and read all that stuff now because after October 31st it will all be GONE! At least until I find another free hosting site. Anyone have some suggestions?

Friday, October 03, 2008

The Plight of ELVIS.

I have been informed that ELVIS (Extra Large Volume Iron Soaker aka "the worlds heaviest bathtub") was abducted from it's retirement home though it may have eloped with an iron sink that appears to have gone missing at the same time. It was not, I repeat NOT slumped over, in, on or even near a porcelein telephone. I'm sure there will be reports of sightings before too long in many major cities across the U.S. If you see a cast iron shower tub, circa 1955 in a donut shop please let me know .........

Thursday, September 25, 2008

My Big Boy!

My stack doest grow straight and erect. It has gained 56 inches this week!

I think me shall namest it "Big Boy."

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Falling Back and Re-grouping

Well, the home sale attempt is being postponed two weeks due to lack of response. For those of you who are following this blog, you will know that we are attempting to sell the resident home using the "5-Day Method." The whole concept is based on making the advertising look so intriguing that you get flooded with calls and have a very active open house weekend. What do you do to make the ad so interesting? You start with a price point at or below 50% of the house value. This is supposed to get you 25 phone calls by Friday evening. If you don't get 25 calls then you cancel the sale and start again. As of Friday I have had exactly 7 phone calls! Here in Dayton we have so many foreclosures that our price point isn't attracting real buyers. there are so many piece of junk properties being offered below $30,000 that our ad is lost in the sea of foreclosure sale ads. If you click on the above link you will see that the author of the book has a forum for people to subscribe to. Here you can read what people are doing and get a feel for the process if you feel you need to try it. It may not be a very good system if you have very little equity in your house. It is geared towards getting fair market value on the day of the sale. This means you won't necessarily get top dollar but then again, you won't have any commissions to pay to real estate agents who don't put forth an effort to sell your home either.

What are we going to do? We are going to take a two pronged approach. The purpose of the advertisement is to draw attention to our house. We also want the real buyers to attend our open house. I don't think retail buyers are attracted to a half price ad. I know I wouldn't be looking in that price range myself. I plan to edit all of my online free classified ads to reflect a new date. I haven't had one response from any online ad. I will also post several online ads. Some for say $88,000 so that it looks like a real estate listing with an open house date. Maybe one for an open house with no price and then the big impact ad! What is that you ask? Well, desperate times call for desperate measures. I have posted a question on the 5-Day Forum and will be interested in seeing what the "experts" say.Since these online ads will run for the next several days or until I pull them, they will test my next step. In a traditional market, when you don't get a single bite, what do you do? Lower the price. So reduce the price we will! We are thinking of changing the ad to read $100 or Highest Best Offer. That should attract people from all parts of the spectrum and I'm hoping that will jam up the phones for a few days!

I will keep you all posted .....

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Wrath of Ike

Today I was working on this

when it started to get windy ..... very windy. Several times I had to run down these steps to take cover. Especially when this happened.

Later, when standing in the kitchen I saw our pear tree come down. This was a shame because it was finally producing pears that were bigger than a walnut. Just this week Deborah asked how we could get the pears off that were at the top of the tree.

I'd say it is no longer a problem!

Guess what I'll be doing for the next few weeks ....

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Ad!

Beautiful Home.
3/BR ,2/BTH, Finished Attic
2 Car Gar, Orig. Woodwork, Garden
$29,500 or Best Offer
Inspection Sat. September 20th and Sun. September 21st
10AM – 5PM
Will be sold on Sunday night to
HIGHEST BIDDER (937) 256-0410

Selling Our House Next Weekend!

No, we are not selling the "Crack House" we are selling the residence house that is three blocks away! I have mentioned before that we are using the "5-Day Method" to sell the house. We bought a book several years ago called "How to sell your house in 5-days" and decided way back then that this might work for us when the time was right. The concept is quite unique. The traditional way to sell a house is for the seller to establish a price that they would like to get for their home. Then lower it after 3 months, then lower it again. Then accept an offer below the asking price or haggle with the first person in many months to make an offer and hope the deal closes. The "5-day Method" is different. We offer the house for less than half of what it is worth. Advertise it like crazy in as many places as possible and hope we get 25 responses to our efforts before the open house on Saturday and Sunday. If we get fewer than 25 responses we postpone the sale and increase our efforts. Right now we have about $300 tied up in advertising and promotion and $250 for an inspection report. Some of our ads will hit a little early but the main effort begins on Wednesday. We only have ONE open house and that is for two days. This makes life easy, doesn't it? We only have to clean the place up one time! Out of the 25 responses to the advertising we should get the three real buyers for our home. On Sunday night I call the people who have left bids in a "Round Robin" bidding sequence in increments of $500 until we have a high bidder. All this does is establish a value for our home. Nothing is binding until we sign a sales agreement. The end result is that we have a real buyer for the house AND a back-up for $500 less. The house should bring fair market value, which it would do if we used a traditional method and we don't have to pay a commission to a real estate agent! Besides this, it will save us up to one years worth of mortgage payments, taxes and insurance. So our acceptance threshold is considerably lower than it would be if we used a traditional method for selling this place. What does this mean? Some lucky buyer is going to get a real deal on a ready-to-move-into-house next weekend and we get to move into a home with a leaky roof that is in dire need of being finished!

Monday, September 08, 2008

Bulk Head Doors

Many of you will recall that last March we had a little problem with the freeze/thaw cycle that prompted me to replace the right side wall with poured concrete in October. This last week or so I have finally removed the rocks that held the left side together and upon building my framework for pouring concrete it proceeded to rain for two days leaving me with an inch of mud in our basement and the added pleasure of having to remove the framework and re-dig several inches of mud out of the pour area. Hey, why do a job once when you can do it twice, right?
Anyway, I took this picture over the weekend before I got all the bricks in place and I am proceeding nicely with the project. I even used a few of our stones for the first step just to make the place look rustic.

You know, I just noticed that the graffiti on the lintel says "EAST SIDE." See, without the photo, I would never have figured that out. I'm impressed that they spelled both words correctly.

I was searching online for wood bulk head doors or wood cellar doors and all I could get were sights trying to sell me or screaming the benefits of steel replacement doors. I'm not opposed to steel doors but for these steps it would have to be custom made and I could produce a perfectly good set of wood doors for less cost and have them done before winter rolls around. Trouble is I couldn't figure out how to attach the wood framing and what it should look like. The good news is that when we travel around I take pictures and store them in an idea folder. Last year I wrote a post about Carriage Hill Farm where they have two sets of bulkhead doors. I had a picture in the folder and went back to take a few more. For some reason the stars must have been in the perfect alignment because one set was open at the exact moment of my arrival and so I took some pictures. These pretty much tell it all.

Now all I have to do is get the stars to align once again so that when I make the doors for our bulk head they actually close properly!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Week's Projects

There are three projects going on here this week. First the cellar stairwell now has the left wall poured and the foundation laid out. I have even started putting the bricks in place on Saturday so that I can make the bulkhead doors. I went and bought some pressure treated wood today and some anchor bolts so that I can get the framework in place and finish bricking in the side walls. I already have the wood cut, sealed and primed. Hopefully this frame be done by next weekend. All that will be left is to make the doors. I will elaborate more on this in a couple of days and post pictures because there is very little info available on the internet about wooden bulkhead doors.
The second project involves pouring the concrete hearth for the fireplace in the main bathroom where the second wood pellet stove will be inserted. I removed the brick hearth and leveled the floor of the fireplace with the proposed floor of the poured hearth re-using the bricks on Saturday. I had to do this so the pellet stove sits properly in the fireplace and doesn't need to be raised in the front like the one on the first floor because the back of the fireplace was an inch higher than the hearth. I didn't realize it until I installed the pellet stove! I caulked in the framework for the hearth today and have to allow the caulk to dry before I add the concrete. I have put a curve in the front and will pour this one in place and polish in place just for the hell of it!
Thirdly, I installed another 8' of chimney liner to one of the two in the back of the house today as well and hauled 70 bricks and two 13"x13" tile liners up onto the roof. Maybe I can get a start on adding the six extra feet to that chimney in the next week also.

While all this is going on I am trying to get the residence house up to snuff because we are selling it using the "5-Day Sale method" on the 21st. We got an inspection report done last Monday and we are putting the advertisements together this week. Since it finally rained here I now have to go and weed the garden AGAIN!Once again, it isn't easy being me.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Getting Screwed Royally!

AKA The Real Estate Tax Fiasco of 2008 (The Prologue)

Everybody in Montgomery County, Ohio listen up! I was just checking our real estate tax listing at and found that my 2008 evaluation on this place went up 96% while almost everything around us plummeted 10% to 60% in value! Out of 16 properties around us, twelve dropped in value while two commercial properties and two residential properties went up between 1.6% and 4.6% but nothing compared to our WHOPPING 96% which means our taxes will almost double. I'm going to fight this one. If they want to increase our property 4.6% when everything else is dropping I'll accept it but I can't sell this place for what they are evaluating it for. Right now I would be lucky to get $10,000 more than we paid for it because it is unfinished, has no garage, the back yard is a jungle and the front porch is falling off! I'll keep you posted. If I'm going to get phucked it would be nice if I got a kiss first ....

Sunday, August 24, 2008

E.L.V.I.S. Has Left the Property!

Remember ELVIS? Not only has ELVIS left the building. ELVIS has left the property. Since Friday evening, ELVIS has a new home a mile down the road in a communty arts garden where I am sure it will be put to good use. Maybe they can paint a picture of it on some black velvet ....

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Today We Reached a New Milestone

This increases the number of distractions that will affect my working on the house in any timely manner ....

Monday, August 04, 2008

One Mans Castle

On Friday and Saturday I had the fun job of hauling 500 bricks from the brick yard to the "Crack House" and getting them into the dining room. On top of that, I have already hauled about 100 of them to the third floor. Since the demise of the old van, this took three trips in the Saturn, 175 or more bricks at a time, 11 trips with a wheelbarrow from the car to the back door and 80 trips from the back door to the dining room. Since nobody raised their hands to volunteer to help me, my newest best friend is a set of brick tongs! A pallet of bricks doesn't look too overwhelming until you haul them 7 at a time with some brick tongs and realize that in order to add 6 feet of height to a chimney, you have to make 54 trips up and again down three flights of stairs and then another 54 trips up a ladder to the roof. On Friday it was 80 degrees on the first floor and 90 something on the third floor. Fourteen trips up and down the stairs was enough for me. I must not complain though. My work on this place is petty when compared to what I saw today.

We took a road trip to Loveland, Ohio to visit "Castle Laroche" which is one of those urban legend things that read about once in a while. Deborah visited the place sometime in the late 1970s and met the man behind the legend. If you visit the web page you can read about this guy. Anyway, he started a project in 1929 that blossomed into this

It is made of 56,000 five-gallon buckets of river rock that he carried from the bank of the river below the property and thousands of concrete bricks that he made using cardboard quart milk cartons as molds. He really started to work on it full time in 1955, after he retired, and continued until his death by which time it was 98% complete. The whole thing cost him $12,000. What is so ironic is that he died in 1981 at the age of 91 from injuries related to a trash fire that he started.
So my 7 years working on the "Crack House" has nothing on this guy and unless I inherit a quarry or something similar I guess it never will!

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Coming Out of the Closet!

Not much to report on the house front. We got distracted twice this weekend with the Dayton Celtic Festival. Actually, we got distracted this weekend with one particular aspect of the Celtic Festival. You see folks, secretly Deborah is a "Gaelic Storm" groupie. Ever since she saw them play at the Dublin Irish Festival about 5 years ago she has to go see them every time they are in town and buy a CD so they can afford another pint of beer! Here is a picture from my position at the back of the crowd.

Elizabeth has been a fan for the same period of time and she is only five. They had her dancing on her seat.

This week, besides lots of garden work, I am working on continuing the vinyl tile from our bathroom into the closet where there is pre WWII tile over tar paper. So I have been on my knees, in and out of the closet for several days now as I level the floor with remnants of luan and backer board and tape the seams. Which leads me to a confession that I need to make after seeing a tee-shirt on an acquaintance that made me laugh.

"Mom, Dad, I'm Gaelic."

Friday, July 25, 2008

My Future is Already Planned.

I already have my next major project lined up, whether it will happen we have to wait and see but it is already planned.

Deborah's mother is from Spain and her parents bought an apartment there back in 1971 which is why we were able to afford to go to Spain this year. Accommodations were covered. Her mother also inherited a 50% share in a plot of land at around the same time. The other 50% was inherited by 7 or so cousins. This land is inland but near Alicante and was a weekend retreat for Deborah's grandparents and great grandparents. It is basically an improved "cave" cut into the side of a shallow terrace where grapes, olives and almonds were grown. When I say "improved" I mean the dirt walls were plastered over and the floor is tiled. There is no running water, bathroom or electricity at the location. It is very "rustic" shall we say?

The place has been neglected for 30 years, the doors are knocked down, the windows missing and the walls are graffiti covered. Much like some of the housing stock in Dayton!
The property has never been divided because 8 owners could never agree how to divide the land. Everyone wanted the "cave" for one reason or another except Deborah's mother. She always wanted to sell the whole plot. This year all the owners are in agreement to sell the whole plot because they are all around 70 or 80 years old and failure to do so will cause more people to be listed as inheritors of the land which I understand is quite common in Spain. Derelict houses can have dozens of owners. The process has begun to survey the parcel and record the property properly because it appears there are a few recording discrepancies. The official record shows 105000 square meters and the deeds show less. This is good news for the property owners but will take time and red tape to correct. If the records are correct this equates to about 26 acres of land. If anyone is interested in buying land in Spain, let us know.

I took some pictures;

This is the general area. The "cave" is in the center of the photo but you won't find it easily. Here is a close up.

Then there is the inside. It looks just like the rooms in the "Old Crack House" when we bought it only better!

So we have decided that if the land hasn't been sold in 5 years time that we will take a year off and fix up the property to make it look more attractive to a potential buyer AND write a book about the whole story and those associated with the land. So in essence we plan to go fix up an old cave in Spain for the hell of it!

This is mostly stone and plaster work as well as tilling some land. We have to replace a few doors and windows and fix a fireplace. All within the realm of my ability. The stone is already right on the property! There is a method to our madness though. By improving the appearance of the property it should sell for more money. This is in our best interests because ultimately Deborah and then Elizabeth become the benefactors of 50% of the site. If we write a book, the trip becomes a business trip regardless of how well or badly it does and if it does OK we may make enough money to buy the other 50% from the relatives which permits Elizabeth to inherit land owned by her great great grandfather and to make some choices when she grows up. If we don't and the land sells, Elizabeth can at least say she spent a year growing up on her ancestors land and have the memories her entire life.

So this means that I have 5 years to learn to speak Spanish. This is good thing because when I go shopping it looks like it may be mandatory in the U.S. very soon!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Been Laying Luan on the Bedroom Floor All Day!

That's right folks and the wife has been checking in periodically! The bedroom floor at the residence house has looked awful for years since wifey decided to pull up all the carpet. We have had to deal with grey 1940s roll linoleum over tarpaper for years. In several spots she even tore up the linoleum so it looked pretty bad. Since we plan to sell our residence house in September using the 5-day method we decided to make the floor look presentable. Rather than put in carpet that a new owner may hate, we decided to cover the floor with a suitable material that would accept carpet or vinyl tile. So I have been installing 1/4 inch Luan board on the floor and in the closet. The new owner can put in what they want and bid on our house accordingly. I spent yesterday on the roof applying roofing cement to all the seams on the porch roofs and at the edges of the dormers. It was hot up there and my bottom is sunburned from sitting on the roof! I also installed the last of the GFCI circuits in the basement and we also have a working doorbell! It's amazing, we have all these things at the "Old Crack House" but not where we live. Fancy that .....

Saturday, July 19, 2008

It's Competition Time!

There is another competition going on at and the prizes are awarded as a drawing instead of a judged entry. This means I have a chance to actually win something, right? I am generally unable to enter home improvement competitions because nothing here is really finished completely and the judges want to see furnishings, carpet, appliances in place and all that fine stuff. Well, we do have one room that is almost finished and it is a vast improvement over what it looked like before and in between. The kitchen. It has been featured on this blog before because it was the first time I had made a concrete counter top and it sucked up so much of my time in the early years. I won't describe what was done because, quite honestly, we did EVERYTHING and no contractor was used! Sure I made a few mistakes. Sure I had to correct them, but it is better to fix your own mistakes than those of someone you paid to make them! I'll let the pictures show you the stages so you can see the scale of the project. In case you are trying to figure out the dimensions, this room is 26 feet long by 8 1/2 feet wide. Now multiply what you see by 13 (the number of rooms) and you will realize the enormity of the task we undertook when we bought this place. You can see some pictures of some of the other rooms at this site. It was and still is an ambitious first project. The only other rooms that are this close to being done are a few closets and the "Steampunk powder room". So, I present to you our kitchen in pictures but before I do that I have to give you the sales pitch that makes this entry qualify as a contestant. This post was written for as part of a sweepstakes sponsored by True Value.